During the mid-nineteenth century, the British government ocupied India and imposed harsh restrictions upon India’s people, one of which was the Salt Tax. In his letter to Viceroy Lord Irwin, Mohandas Gandhi effectively communicates his beliefs about British occupation of India in order to demand for Britain to end the Salt Tax through stating his position of nonviolence, explaining the vastness of his movement that will fight against injustice, and offering to negotiate with the British.
Gandhi begins by stating his position of nonviolence. One way Gandhi does this is through carefully phrasing his sentences. He has “deliberately used the word conversion”. He does this to show Irwin that he will never resort to military action. Because of this, Viceroy Lord Irwin begins reading more openly than he would have without the mention of nonviolence. Gandhi believes that by moving his audience from reading with a defensive attitutude to reading with an open-minded attitute, Gandhi is more likely to be successful. Gandhi also emphasizes his service to the British people, highlighting his “want to serve them even as I want to serve my own”. Gandhi does this to stress his position as a public servant and reassure Irwin of his loyalty to the British, despite the fact that Gandhi is speaking out against the British government’s actions. As a result, Viceroy Lord Irwin is reminded that the Indian people are still somewhat loyal to the British and will not seek to rebel. Through these examples, Gandhi assures Irwin that his movement is not one of rebellion but one of conversion.
After stating his nonviolence, Gandhi proceeds to explain the vastness of his movement fighting against injustice. One way he does this is by informing Iriwn that his movement is much greater than himself, and that, even if the British arrest Gandhi, there wil be “tens of thousands ready, in a disciplined manner, to take up the work after me”. Gandhi does this to show Irwin that Gandhi is not alone in his opinions about British occupation of India and, specifically, the Salt Tax. This demonstrates to Viceroy Lord Irwin the greater possibility of need for negotiation because he is not simply dealing with one political zealot, but a large movement that needs to be calmed down. Gandhi also describes that his movement is not simply made up of political dissenters but of warriors agianst injustice. He does this when he writes that the Salt Tax “should never have distinguished the statute book”. Through this, Gandhi highlights the deeper cause within his movement and illustrates that the Inidian people will not stop once the Salt Tax is ended but once all injustice against the Indian people is stopped. By this, Irwin is forced to recognize the moral issues that the British have imposed upon the Indian people.
Building upon explaining the largeness of his political and moral movement, Gandhi moves on to conclude with an invitation to negotiation. One way Gandhi does this is by offering to withhold his letter from publication. By doing this, Gandhi shows that his goal is to end injustice, mainly through ending the Salt Tax, against the Indian people and not to expose the moral and political faults of the British. Through this, Irwin sees the letter as a polite request from a man to a man and not just a political demand. Gandhi also reminds Irwin that his letter is :not in any way intended as a threat, but is a simple and sacred duty”. Gandhi does this to once again stress the nonviolence of his movement and to show that he is fulfilling his responsibility as a public servant. By this, Irwin sees that the injustices the British have imposed upon the Indian people have pushed Gandhi to write this letter. This pushes Irwin to see Gandhi’s side of the story, since Gandhi is writing to help his people.
Through his use of explaining his nonviolent position, emphasizing the great size of his movement of followers aimed against injustice, and offering to negotiate, Gandhi tries to convince Lord Viceroy Irwin to reduce the restrictions on the Indian people, namely the Salt tax. Gandhi’s letter is an example of Indian resistance to British rule. Although his letter is unsuccessful, Gandhi demonstrates the nationalism of the Indian people against unfair British occupation.